+ Michel Pilz, Jasper Van't Hof, Rainer Brüninghaus u.a.
The blueprint for the quintet was to re-integrate lessons learned in free playing into melodically-intense small group jazz. Manfred Schoof “The 1970s, when these recordings were made, gave many musicians the opportunity to expand a scale of musical expression that originated from the free jazz of the 1960s. This led to a new kind of playing that did not hesitate to use and combine different means of expression – a process exemplified by the present recordings. The music on these CDs is contemporary and free in the best sense of these words; more so, it is timeless. Here the term “free” not only stands for a specific style of jazz that, in its beginnings, opposed with revolutionary gesture everything redolent of the past and reminiscent of tradition but rather the freedom to choose between a multitude of very different means of expression. Tradition, therefore, is viewed as a past experience that merges with and enriches a new style of sound.”
Schoof showcased some exceptional talent in his band. Michel Pilz was, in the era, the only European improviser who had committed himself exclusively to the bass clarinet. Inspired initially by Eric Dolphy, he developed his own distinctive sound, playing inside the ensemble textures as well as soloing with energy and imagination. Günter Lenz and Ralf R. Hübner helped to define the direction of modern jazz in Germany. Both bassist and drummer were members of Albert Mangelsdorff’s pioneering groups of the 1960s and their detailed interaction is crucial to the buoyancy of the Schoof quintet sound. Lenz can also be heard on ECM with the Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, Hübner with Eberhard Weber on “The Colours of Chloe” and “Chorus”. Together, for decades, they powered the rhythm section of the Jazzensemble des Hessischen Rundfunks – see the ECM album “Atmospheric Conditions Permitting”.
The pianists in the Schoof group were players of the next generation. Dutch keyboardist Jasper van’t Hof came to Schoof after playing with Pierre Courbois’s Association PC and the collective Pork Pie, which also included Charlie Mariano and Philip Catherine, in a time when rock and jazz were influencing each other.
This is a very welcome reissue, complete with extensive photographic documentation, of some of the most lucidly conceived and atmospherically unfolding music I remember hearing in the late 70s.
Michael Tucker, Jazz Journal / Jazz Review
This record evokes many responses in me, all of them good. The playing is quite beautiful. Pilz’s dark-hued bass clarinet is a perfect foil for Schoof’s majestic northern European tones, while the rhythms section succeeds in being both lithe and supportive. It’s music where instruments weave in and out, each one simultaneously connected and independent. Form and improvisation merge seamlessly and harmoniously.
Duncan Heining, Jazzwise
The band’s approach to a repertoire of originals by Schoof, Hübner and van’t Hof reflected a desire to combine freedom with structure, and the results have an enduring lyricism and melodic beauty. With a brilliantly flexible rhythms section, totally attuned to the demands placed on it, the contrast between Schoof’s lyric trumpet and flugelhorn and Pilz’s tart bass clarinet works. The coherence and beauty… show one of the great European bands at a peak.
Ray Comiskey, The Irish Times
Man kann wieder ausgiebig schwelgen: in der lyrischen Kombination von Flügelhorn und Bass-Klarinette, zurückhaltend unterstützt von Bass und Piano, nicht wirklich angetrieben, aber aufmerksam und präzise ergänzt vom Schlagzeug. … Aufregend und immer noch ausgesprochen modern klingt, was Schoof und seine hier in Bestform agierenden Mitmusiker da auf die Beine gestellt haben. Musik mit freiem Blick zum Horizont, luftig und intim zugleich.
Ulrich Kriest, Jazzthetik
Rund 30 Jahre alt ist diese Musik, doch sie klingt ausgesprochen zeitlos – das Beste aus drei lange vergriffenen LPs, die Manfred Schoof mit seinem Quintett in der zweiten Hälfte der 1970er Jahre… aufnahm. … Er bindet das „Freie“ ein, schafft Orientierungspunkte, grundiert es mit einem Ostinato, einem swingenden Rhythmus, einer Klangfläche und setzt dem furiosen „free play“ vieler Kollegen eine Art sublimierter Freiheit entgegen. Wegweisende Aufnahmen.
Berthold Klostermann, Fono Forum